The Language of Steno

Students and teachers are so excited to see their students moving forward into the skill building process that we often overlook that steno is a language.  Before we can begin to see how fast our students can move their fingers on the machine, we need to make sure that they have learned the language.  It is common to misdiagnose the problem when counseling a student if we do not know how much of their steno language that they really know.

Learning Outcomes

What are the learning outcomes that you are seeking in each course, and do you have a way of measuring them?

Accreditors and state agencies are all requiring improvement in learning outcomes to increase  retention, graduation, and placement.  A great deal of emphasis is being placed on outcomes.

How does one go about improving outcomes in court reporting?  A big problem is the confusion as to what is an expected outcome and what can be done to achieve that outcome?

If court reporting is to survive in an environment in which schools are judged on how well they are able to produce graduates, then it is imperative that there be an understanding of exactly what outcomes we are seeking in every course that we teach and establishing an approach to enable students to achieve the desired outcomes.  If we establish outcomes that are unachievable, the result will continue to be a high dropout rate.

If we set expected outcomes that are achievable, we have a better chance of improving our outcomes for retention, graduation, and placement.

In just about every field that someone wishes to study, methodologists have been busy defining expected outcomes and providing solutions for how students are to achieve those outcomes.

Unfortunately, no such undertaking has occurred for the study of court reporting.  If you ask most court reporting teachers how they know a student has attained the desired outcome for their class, they will tell you that the attainment of the desired outcome occurs when a student passes one test, two tests, or so on.  A common assumption is that the desired outcome is the passage of tests in skill courses or the attainment of a grade in an academic course.

The journal articles on learning outcomes make it clear that a grade should not be considered a valid learning outcome.  Likewise, passing a speed test should not be considered the expected outcome.  If that is true, what should the desired outcomes be?

Going back to our theory course, an achievable desired outcome for theory is to have every student write every word that is in their theory book (whatever theory book it is) accurately according to the theory principles that they learned in their theory lessons without any speed requirement.  If they have accomplished this task, they have reached a desired outcome for the theory class.

One expected learning outcome is now defined and achievable.  Do we stop there?  If you define and say that these learning outcomes are achievable, do you have a mechanism to ensure that students are able to achieve 100 percent of their goal.  It is easier to give a theory test and determine that a student achieved a specific grade on the test.  It takes more work to put into place a mechanism that will ensure that the student is able to keep practicing the theory outlines in the book until they are able to write every outline correctly.  Do you tell your students to keep practicing their theory and hope that they learn all the steno outlines for the words in their theory book? Or, do you provide a way for you to know that they have, in fact, achieved that goal?

Learning theory is really learning the steno language.  The same techniques that apply to learning a language can apply to learning the language of steno.

What learning techniques can we apply to learning the language of steno?

As a steno language teacher, you can be really creative.

Here are some techniques:

  1. Use flash cards with the steno outline on one side and the English translation on the other and have students divide up into groups to quiz one another.
  2. Create a Powerpoint flash card presentation and show at the beginning of class every day.
  3. Use a flash card app to create at home practice for students.
  4. Use a test program with sort capability to generate theory tests and create multiple tests on steno theory. Generate enough tests to ensure that eventually all students will achieve your expected outcomes.
  5. Group students together to quiz each other using flash cards.
  6. Use a puzzle app and create puzzles to make learning fun.

A colleague recently told me that he ultimately learned the hard way in law school that earning a grade of 70 in law courses is unacceptable.  It really means that you do not know 30 percent of the material.  Not only that, if you keep only learning 70 percent of the material, the amount of unlearned material increases exponentially.

What we are striving for in whatever program that we are teaching is to build a solid foundation on which the student can arrive at the expected outcome that we set.  How do you go about building a solid foundation in the steno language?

Which way do you want your students to start their journey into speeds?


Question:  Is this methodology for teaching steno language a departure from the way that it is currently done at your school, or have you already mastered defining learning outcomes for theory and structuring a methodology to ensure that your expected learning outcomes are achievable by all students?